Digital marketing conference roundup

I attended an interesting conference just recently, organised by Universities UK. Entitled “Using Digital innovation to enhance university marketing and communications”, the slides can be accessed via the link at the foot of this blog post.

Talks were delivered by a range of colleagues from HE institutions such as Warwick, Sheffield Hallam and JISC. And wild card Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert also put us on our toes. Yes, really.

The day was lively and most people were very engaged in the debates. Twitter was busy too. Generally it seems colleagues are still getting to grips with “Digital” and its centrality in investment and planning decisions. Our customers are demanding. The old funnel marketing approach is now well and truly dead. Everything is circular and granular and actually, or potentially, expensive.

Interestingly, it was also generally acknowledged that Senior HE management, usually coming from a certain demographic, may well be dependent on “youngsters” in junior roles doing things digital and stretching strategy and tactics beyond anywhere previously experienced in traditional HE marketing. Dependence on that activity and risks in decision making around it was articulated, and that’s a good thing to question, imho. Before the integration of social media in our lives, nothing much had changed in HE marketing for a good, long while.

We started the day hearing the JISC mission “To enable people in HE, FE, and Skills in the UK to perform at the forefront of international practice by fully exploiting the possibilities of modern digital empowerment, content and connectivity”. The Gartner group says HE is seriously lagging behind in digital marketing compared to other international industry sectors. I couldn’t agree more. But other sectors spend more, much more. And possibly work in a more joined up, top down manner than any Russell Group university ever has, or ever will. Martin Lewis was as entertaining and direct as ever. He used his authentic, on brand approach to say that universities need to give people what they want and make it easy to find. Are we doing that? Also he said we should weave in what it is we want them to know about us too. So, nothing surprising or new there. But that’s the point isn’t it? Our core business hasn’t changed (yet) but the channels we have to promote it have.

It is clear that the old boundaries between Comms, Marketing, Recruitment and IT are now blurred, very blurred. Here on the UWP team we have always striven to work across “boundaries” with colleagues in CAM, IS and the schools, colleges and support groups. But we are a tiny team and can only do so much. And this is a huge university, with a lot going on. I recommend we act now to look at this and see how we might do things even better, together.

Universities UK website – conference session presentations



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